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In the spirit of democracy and equal access to participate in civic engagement, specifically the necessity of voter education in this age of polarization, the League of Women Voters of Nebraska — a nonpartisan voting rights organization — disseminated the first statewide compilation of candidate information in 2020 via an online voters’ guide, VOTE411 (www.vote411.org).
The 2020 elections were historic in voter turnout, with 74% of Nebraska’s registered voters casting ballots. However, there are real barriers to obtaining candidate information to continue providing this voter education service to all Nebraskans.
The online voters’ guide requires the league to obtain email addresses for all candidates to invite them to participate. The guide asks impartial questions of each candidate running for a particular office and is published before the primary and general elections. Obtaining this candidate information is no simple task as the league is required to contact election commissioners and county clerks in all 93 counties to request a list of candidates running for office in the 2022 elections.
Election offices vary
Within this request, the league requires such information as a candidate’s name, office the person is running for, political party, campaign mailing address and, most importantly, a candidate’s email address. As Nebraska’s election offices compile this in a variety of different ways, the information provided is often incomplete.
This obstacle to collecting the needed information underscores the need for a streamlined process spearheaded by the Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office on how candidate information is gathered across Nebraska’s 93 counties. It also emphasizes why legislation such as Legislative Bill 861, introduced by State Sen. John S. McCollister, is so important. LB 861 would require an email address to be provided on candidate filing forms.
Requiring an email address on filing forms would provide an easy and equitable opportunity to invite all candidates to participate in VOTE411 to share their platforms with their constituents. Without this requirement, candidates are often left out of the process or the League’s volunteers have to spend insurmountable amounts of time attempting to contact them via phone or other methods to obtain this information. Currently, 1,443 candidates are in the VOTE411 system statewide and 1,133 of them — 78.5% — have not provided email addresses. The email addresses would enable candidates to be invited to participate without additional work by the league’s volunteers to obtain this contact information.
Voters deserve information
Nebraskans deserve to be informed about the public officials listed on their ballots — from the suburban areas to the rural communities. The benefits of providing information about candidates to voters is two-fold. First, candidates receive free publicity about their campaigns. Second, VOTE411 is one of the few, if not the only, online voters’ guide that provides nonpartisan candidate information.
To empower voters in our state, we must support and pass commonsense bills like LB 861 to assist organizations like the league to continue its efforts to provide information that Nebraska voters rely upon year after year.
Please contact your senator to support LB 861. And please encourage candidates you know to send their email addresses to [email protected] so that they can participate in VOTE411.VOTE411
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